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How to get into Penn State—General Information

Penn State, or the Pennsylvania State University, is a public research university in Pennsylvania. Founded in 1863, Penn State was Pennsylvania’s first and only land-grant university. Penn State enrollment is now at 76,000 undergraduate students, 40,639 of whom are students at University Park, the school’s primary campus.

What we’ll cover in this “How to Get Into Penn State” guide: 

  • Penn State GPA requirements
  • Optimal Penn State SAT scores and ACT scores
  • Understanding the Penn State acceptance rate
  • Writing strong Penn State essays
  • The Penn State application, tricks to Penn State admissions, and more.

We’ll walk you through the various aspects that should make up your “how to get into Penn State” game plan. If you want to optimize your chances against the Penn State acceptance rate, we recommend preparing your Penn State application as early as possible. This means taking challenging classes early in high school to ensure you meet the Penn State GPA requirements, as well as establishing a compelling assortment of extracurriculars, and planning ahead for the Penn State essays. Let’s get started.

Figuring out how to get into Penn State takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com has a network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers). Want to maximize your Penn State admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

How can I get into Penn State?

Wondering how to get into Penn State? Beating the Penn State acceptance rate takes preparation, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. 

The best way to kick things off is with research. Before you even begin the Penn State application, you should familiarize yourself with:

  1. What makes Penn State unique?
  2. The Penn State admissions process
  3. The Penn State application itself
  4. Is Penn State the right school for me?

We’ll touch on all of these throughout this “How to Get into Penn State” guide. However, we recommend researching on your own as well, ensuring that you understand what makes Penn State different from other schools and why these characteristics are a fit for you. This information will inform your “how to get into Penn State” strategy and will help you stand out from other applicants vying for Penn State enrollment.

How hard is it to get into Penn State?

With a student body as large as the Penn State enrollment, trying to stand out as an applicant can feel intimidating. To put it into perspective, Penn State received 95,999 applications in its last admissions cycle. That’s a lot of applicants! So just how hard is it to overcome the Penn State admissions odds?

The class of 2025 saw a Penn State acceptance rate of 54% for the University Park campus, Penn State’s most popular campus. Amongst admits the average GPA was between 3.56 and 3.91 for University Park, and between 3.06 and 3.65 for all Penn State campuses. Penn State SAT scores were similarly competitive, falling between 1280-1450 for University Park, and 1090-1300 for all campuses.

These numbers are competitive, but not insurmountable. With the right “how to get into Penn State” game plan, overcoming the Penn State acceptance rate is well within reach. In fact, if your GPA and SAT scores fall within the range of the above Penn State SAT scores and average Penn State GPA requirements, your odds of beating the Penn State acceptance rate are already looking good.

What is the Penn State acceptance rate?

Of the 95,999 applicants hoping to be part of the Penn State enrollment in the class of 2025, only 15,443 were granted acceptance. The Penn State acceptance rate for University Park, the school’s most competitive campus, was 54%. Early Action applicants saw a higher acceptance rate of 68%. 

The Penn State acceptance rate is competitive for a public university. Of every 100 applicants, 46 will receive a rejection. However, due to the size of the Penn State enrollment, academic scores will be the most important measure of candidacy, over more subjective measures such as fit and demonstrated interest. With the right Penn State SAT scores and high school GPA, an offer to join Penn State enrollment is attainable.

Want to learn more about acceptance rates? Check out our expert guide.

What are the Penn State GPA requirements?

Your high school GPA is going to be one of the most important metrics to think about as you consider how to get into Penn State. With that said, many students wonder whether there are Penn State GPA requirements for admittance to the school. 

Penn State published the average GPA for admits to its class of 2025. Amongst successful applicants to the University Park campus, the GPA was between 3.56-3.91. It was slightly lower than other Penn State campuses: between 3.06-3.65. 

So are there Penn State GPA requirements? The Penn State admissions office states that there is no cutoff for GPA, nor for the Penn State SAT scores. Similarly, meeting or exceeding the average GPA will not guarantee acceptance. 

In other words, there are no true Penn State GPA requirements, but falling within, or above, the average range is a great way of optimizing your “how to get into Penn State” strategy. So, you can assume unofficial Penn State GPA requirements of at least a 3.0. 

What does the Penn State application include?

If you’re looking to beat the Penn State acceptance rate, one of the best things you can do is to familiarize yourself with the Penn State application in advance of the deadline. 

Penn State offers students two options for applying: the Common Application and the Coalition Application

Once you have selected your application portal, you must submit the following:

Penn State application components:

  • Application fee or a fee waiver
  • Penn State SAT scores or ACT scores (optional through 2023)
  • Self-reported academic record

Unlike many schools, Penn State does not require letters of recommendation. In fact, the primary means Penn State admissions uses to assess candidates is high school GPA and, if you choose to submit it, your Penn State SAT scores. This makes the Penn State application process fairly straightforward. However, it means that optional, qualitative components, like Penn State essays, cannot boost your application if you have lower than average Penn State SAT scores or GPA. 

What extracurriculars do I need for Penn State?

Wondering how to get into Penn State? If you want to beat the Penn State acceptance rate, you’re going to need to put some thought into your extracurriculars.

The Penn State essays consist only of one optional statement and the school does not accept letters of recommendation. So, your extracurriculars are the best opportunity to show personality in the Penn State application.

Many students who are strategizing how to get into Penn State make the mistake of trying to choose their activities based on what they believe Penn State admissions is looking for—this is not how to get into Penn State.

Rather, you should spend your early high school years figuring out which clubs and activities you are most interested in. As you hone in on the activities you most enjoy, challenge yourself to take on leadership positions and go outside of your comfort zone. Penn State admissions is looking for indicators of leadership, collaboration, and initiative in your extracurriculars.

Your extracurriculars will be one of the most important parts of your Penn State application, along with your Penn State SAT scores and high school GPA. So, make sure you start early and get involved with activities that you’re passionate about

Are there any Penn State essays?

Given how large the Penn State enrollment is, the university reviews too many applications to make supplemental essays a worthwhile use of Penn State admissions officers’ time. As such, there are no required Penn State essays. In place of mandatory Penn State essays, there is one optional statement, similar to the Common Application personal statement. 

Even though the statement is optional, the student trying to optimize their “how to get into Penn State” strategy should view the essay as mandatory. It is a chance to add more dimension to your application. Unlike the Penn State SAT scores or your high school GPA, the personal statement is a valuable opportunity for you to show personality and individuality.

Check out our guide to writing strong Penn State essays here. In it, we cover how to approach the optional supplement in order to optimize this portion of the Penn State application. Although there are not multiple Penn State essays, one supplement is all you need to make your Penn State application stand out. 

How does Penn State admissions review applications?

With a Penn State enrollment of almost 100,000 students, it’s a marvel how Penn State admissions manages to review so many applications. And if you’re wondering how to get into Penn State, you’re probably curious about what this review process looks like. What are the behind-the-scenes of the Penn State acceptance rate? 

Penn is transparent about prioritizing academic records in the Penn State admissions process. This means test scores, as well as meeting the Penn State GPA requirements, will be the most important factors in determining candidacy. Other components, such as applicants’ extracurriculars and optional Penn State essays, are weighed secondarily. 

In addition, Penn states that they review applications by campus, as opposed to by program. As part of your “how to get into Penn State” strategy, you should think carefully about the campus to which you want to apply. Note that Penn allows you to only apply to two.

Will Penn State consider my social media accounts?

If you want to know how to get into Penn State, it’s only natural for you to wonder about every possible factor. As such, many students are concerned that their social media accounts will factor into their Penn State admissions decision.

At a smaller school, it is possible that a student’s internet presence will be used as an additional factor to determine candidacy. However, Penn State enrollment is almost 100,000 students, and the school often gets upwards of 100,000 applicants each year. Penn State admissions officers simply have too much work on their hands to be able to run a search on each applicant.

In short, you can rest assured that, as far as Penn State is concerned, your social media presence will stay private. However, it is always a good idea to use good judgment with what you choose to publish online. Even if it is not a factor now, it very well might be in the future when you are applying for jobs or internships.

Is Penn State a good school for me?

Now you have a sense of how to get into Penn State. But is Penn State the school for you? In order to answer this question, we suggest taking a look at what makes this university unique.

First, the Penn State enrollment makes this school one of the largest academic institutions worldwide. And while this means access to extensive resources and the largest Alumni Association in the world, it’s easy for some students to feel overwhelmed by the vastness. 

Penn State also does its best to make its expansive campus network feel like home. The university is divided up into 20 different campuses, the most popular of which is University Park. In addition, the student body is renowned for its school spirit and contributions to an extensive network of clubs, activities, and events on campus. So, even with the massive Penn State enrollment, students can forge a personal path in their four years.

Read more about Penn State University here. Get a sense of what student life is like at Penn here. The research you do on Penn State will not only help you decide if Penn State is the right fit for you, but it will get you excited about what the next four years could look like!

Additional tips to get into Penn State

If you’ve made it this far, you should have a better sense of how to get into Penn State, as well as what it is about this school that draws so many applicants each year. You should also now be familiar with:

  • The Penn State GPA requirements
  • Penn’s test-optional ACT and SAT scores
  • What happens in the Penn State admissions process
  • Submitting the Penn State application, and more.

How else can you optimize your odds of joining the Penn State enrollment? 

Penn State has a couple of quirks that make the application process unique. 

Firstly, you can only apply to two of its twenty-four campuses. As its largest campus, University Park is the school’s most popular first-choice campus. However, this makes admissions to University Park more competitive, with higher unofficial Penn State GPA requirements and stronger Penn State SAT scores. If you are set on attending Penn State, you might want to prioritize applying to its less competitive campuses.

Second, Penn offers a non-binding Early Action application. Students who want to optimize their odds should consider Early Action in their Penn State admissions strategy. While this means submitting your application earlier, Early Action is non-binding, unlike Early Decision. If you expect to have all components of your Penn State application done in time, we highly recommend applying early.

Our final bit of advice is to take advantage of all parts of the application, including those that are optional. This means studying hard for the SAT or ACT so that you can confidently submit these scores, as well as writing a careful response to the optional Penn State essay.

This guide was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to know how to get into Penn State, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com has a network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers). Want to maximize your Penn State admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.